Tropical Fish - Catfish are bottom-feeders
The Catfish are scavengers
Catfish get their name because most species have whiskers on their mouths. Correctly referred to as barbels these organs are used to help them find food and as sense organs.
There are very many species of catfish that are kept by tropical fish hobbyists and many of them are thought of as bottom-feeders and scavengers. And indeed this is the method of feeding for a lot of types but others have sucker-mouths and graze the algae off rocks and plants.
Catfish such as the South American Corydoras catfish are frequently kept in community tanks because they are peaceful little fish that get along well with other types of tropical fish.
There are many species of Corydoras that are commonly kept and 142 species in the genus. The name Corydoras comes from the Greek "kory" meaning helmet, and "doras" meaning skin. This refers to their strong scales like armour.
The most commonly kept Corydoras, or "Cory" as they often called is the Bronze Corydoras (C. aeneus). The females reach around 2¾ inches and the males are smaller. This catfish has a pinkish body with dark blue-grey on the back and head and a metallic green-bronze on the sides. They can live as long as 10 years and are peaceful fish ideal for a community tank.
This Corydoras and other species have unusual breeding habits. Several males will court a single female and do not fight. The female will drink sperm from a male's genital opening. This she passes right through her on to her eggs which she can lay in another location attached to the leaves of plants.
Bronze Corydoras catfish are best kept in groups of five or more. They like to move about in the company of others of their own kind.
The Bronze Corydoras and related species are able to breathe atmospheric oxygen. If the water they are in is low in this gas they dash to the surface to take a gulp of air.
Another commonly kept species is the Peppered Corydoras (C. paleatus).
The Upside-down Catfish really does swim that way a lot of the time. There are several species known as Upside-down Catfish but Synodontis nigriventris is the most commonly kept. It comes from the Congo Basin in Africa.
This unusual fish grows to about 4 inches in length. It has large eyes and three pairs of long barbels. Its back is lighter in colour than its stomach because it spends most of its time the wrong way up. It is thought these fish evolved this way because they often feed on the undersides of submerged trunks and branches and swimming this way made it easier for them to do so.
The Upside-down Catfish is a peaceful fish that is well-suited to the tropical fish community tank.
Glass Catfish and Ghost Catfish
The Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus bicchiris) is a very unusual catfish that comes from Asia and is often confused with the smaller but very similar Ghost Catfish (K. minor).
These weird fish get their names because of their transparent bodies. Only the head section, internal organs and the bones have much in the way of any colouring.
The Glass and Ghost Catfishes are also unusual as types of catfish because although they have barbels around their mouths they are most certainly not bottom-feeders. The Glass Catfish and the Ghost Catfish swim in the mid-levels of the water and like to be in shoals. They feed mainly on live food but can be trained to eat flake and other food types.
The Ghost Catfish grows to around 3 inches and can be kept in community tanks but not with aggressive species, and it is best if kept with others of its species.
Catfish books on Amazon
The Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus verrucosus) is a personal favourite of mine. These strange fish look like almost like dead leaves and they can play dead too if disturbed. At other times they can move fast and will bury themselves in the sand or gravel to get away.
Banjo Catfish of which there are actually many species come from the Amazon region and other parts of South America and get their name from their body shape which is similar to that of the instrument they are named after.
These catfish are bottom feeders and resemble living vacuum cleaners when feeding. They are omnivores and scavengers but need some live food in their diets. Banjo Catfish mainly come out at night. They are peaceful and suitable for the tropical fish community tank.
The Walking Catfish (Clarias batrachus) doesn't have legs but it can and does make its way over the ground in an effort to find new ponds and waterways to call home. In fact in many places it has become regarded as a problem invasive species because it does this. This is the case in several of the Southern States of the US.
The Walking Catfish, which comes originally from many countries in Southeast Asia, grows to around 12 inches in length. It can breath atmospheric air and as long as it keeps moist can survive out of the water for some time.
The Walking Catfish is a typical catfish with long barbels around its mouth and it feeds mainly on the bottom. It is an omnivore but will readily eat smaller fish and other aquatic animals.
Various other species in the Clarias genus get sold to tropical fish enthusiasts as well. Many types of Clarias Catfish come from Africa as well as Asia,
The Plecostomus ,or "Pleco" as it is often called, is any one of many species of sucker-mouth catfishes that are often sold as "Algae-eaters." The most commonly kept and well-known species is Hypostomus plecostomus. This species has been introduced into some parts of North America including Texas and Florida.
Although it is usually sold at just a few inches long it can grow to a massive 2 foot in length and is really a fish for a large aquarium. Very big Plecos are often in show-tanks in tropical fish stores.
There are very many related species and some new ones are still being discovered in South America where the fish are found. The Plecostomus Catfishes all have a mouth with which they can suck algae of a smooth surface and attach themselves to it. They have armoured bodies with tough scales and eyes that can be rolled with the eye-sockets.
The Plecostomus is generally peaceful when young but they can become aggressive when much bigger. They can also uproot `plants in an aquarium.
All species of Plecostomus eat a lot of algae and vegetable matter but are really omnivores and scavengers that will eat other fish foods too.
Although most species of Plecostomus are a dark brown colour with black spotting there are some types that have spectacular black and white colouration. At least one type has a coloured eye as well.
Some species of Plecostomus develop bristle-like growths on their head by their mouths too. These are more correctly known as species in the genus Ancistrus and are known as Bristlenose Catfish species. The armour-plated look of thei bodies of all these types of sucker-mouth catfish gives them a very prehistoric look as well.
Hand tamed Plecostomus
The Otocinclus (Otocinclus affinis) is a distant relative of the Plecostomus and in the Loricariidae family of sucker-mouth catfishes. There are 18 species in the genus Otocinclus and all are small fish that come from South America.
They will eat algae off the sides of a tank and browse on stones and the leaves of water plants. Being small catfish with the the largest type not reaching more than 2 inches, the Otocinclus species should not be kept with much larger fish that could bully or even eat them. They like company of their own species and can be kept in a community tank with other compatible and gentle species of tropical fish.
Like many types of catfish the species of Otocinclus are able to breathe atmospheric air and can gulp this at the surface of the water.
The Electric Catfish (Malapterurus electricus) can really emit an electric shock, and as much as 350 volts have been recorded given off by these fish. The Electric Catfish is definitely not for the community tank!
These fish grow to around 3 foot in length and are predators. They stun the smaller fish and aquatic animals they eat with electric shocks. They also use this system to defend themselves.
The Electric Catfish, which comes from Tropical Africa and in the Nile and region, is one for the specialist tropical fish-keeper. It needs a very large tank.
The Electric Catfish will also pull up plants and shift gravel about so can really make a mess of an aquarium lay-out.
Electric Catfish (Malapterurus electricus) female
There are many other species of catfish including ones that can be kept in cold freshwater and brackish and marine species. The European Wels Catfish (Silurus glanis) can grow to over 2 metres in length and live to around 30 years.
These massive catfish will eat other fish, frogs, mice, rats and eve take ducks. They live in rivers and lakes in many parts of Europe and arr one of the largest freshwater fish.
Catfish come in many shapes and sizes, some of them attractive to look at and others decidedly ugly. Most types have a whiskery mouth and are aptly named as catfish!
Copyright © 2011 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
Wikipedia catfish links
- Catfish - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Ancistrus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Otocinclus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Plecostomus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Walking catfish - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Aspredinidae - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Glass Catfish - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Upside-down catfish - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Corydoras - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
More by this Author
If you don't know much about tropical fish you probably think that a barb is a hooked spike that could do some damage, and indeed such barbs exist, and this is one use for the word. There are fish species with barbels...
Livebearers, or live-bearers as it is also written, are a large group of mainly freshwater tropical fish in the Poeciliidae. They are technically speaking live-bearing tooth-carp but what stands out about them all is...
Alex Collier is famous for being a self-proclaimed alien contactee who says he has had many meetings with beings from Andromeda. But are his claims true?